I am less judgmental than I used to be. I realize that’s a self-defeating statement, but stick with me here.
I’m pretty good at judging people. I know I shouldn’t do it, but I size people up pretty quickly and decide a lot about them with very little factual information. I know that, while I’ll probably always struggle with this, becoming a parent has made me mull over my assumptions and contemplate that they could be (no, I don’t want to admit it) wrong.
A really good friend who’s an amazing, award-winning teacher recently went to Disney World. Disney is one of those places where bad parenting really shines through. (I’m picturing little Johnny beating his sister, Janie, while threatening to run away if he doesn’t ride Space Mountain RIGHT NOW.) It’s hard not to look everywhere and wonder why God didn’t make it harder to get pregnant, or why there’s not some test you have to take to get permission from the government to procreate. But that’s another topic entirely …
I asked my friend what she saw that was so disturbing, and she said she noticed families eating together but not communicating at all. She saw kids playing with their iPods, iPads and iAnythings while the parents seemed happy to ignore them. At first it made me sad to imagine the scene, too. I thought, “Gosh, families just aren’t families anymore. Those parents will probably wonder why their kids won’t talk to them when they’re teenagers.”
Then came the thought that perhaps, just maybe, that could be me someday. It’s possible (especially at Disney World), when I will be exhaustively park-hopping, accommodating at least four people’s preferences while keeping on a schedule to fit as many rides in as possible, that when we sit down as a family for a meal, no one will have anything to say. We might just sit in silence, all hoping for a break from each other and from the hustle and bustle of the park. Or maybe the kid in the family my friend saw was autistic. I came to realize that someday, if my good friend didn’t know me, she could have seen ME at the park with MY family doing the same thing, and tell her friends how sad my family is.
Before I became a parent (and this is no dis on people without kids), I definitely watched and condemned other parents’ actions a whole lot more than I do now. I find myself trying to give people the benefit of the doubt a little more, thinking through the various scenarios where I might do the same thing I can’t believe I’m witnessing (like if I’m tired, or if there might be days when I give in to the same type of battle because it’s not worth having the 22nd fight of the day).
So, if you ever see me at Disney World, or anywhere for that matter, and we’re doing something you wouldn’t do, please step back and assume I have thought through what I’m doing and I have a reason.
Unless you see one of my kids beating the other up while making demands and holding our emotions hostage. If that happens, please intervene. You have my permission to judge.